We entered the 24 hour film challenge; this was a lot like last year’s 48 hour film challenge, except half as long. I’ve been waiting until the actual films go online before writing it all up; the files are quite big, so you might want to set them going before you start to read. There’s a 67MB DivX version, or a 34MB WMV version. Anyway.
6am. It’s getting light again. I’ve been sat at my laptop, headphones on, with about 70 files open in SoundForge trying to mix together all the audio for the rough cut of the film I have in front of me, for getting on for 4 hours now, after 2 hours of foley recordings and re-recording actor dialogue. I am assured by John that the cut timings are exact, and it’s only the visuals that may change; in about an hour, we will find out that this is not the case. My mental state is deteriorating, things are becoming fuzzy, and I really, really just want this to be over, now, please.
One of the biggest problems we faced with last years challenge was that we had far too many people; we ended up with four hours of footage for a 5 minute film, and everyone wanted to be involved with everything. It added unnecessary stress to the proceedings and just complicated matters. So, this year, 2880 was stripped down to five people – Topper, Brian, Dan, John and myself, along with three wonderful and highly talented actors that Brian had dragged up from Shooting People. This made the whole process much smoother; we even managed to stick to the off-the-top-of-our-heads schedule we’d come up for ourselves and still managed to fit in an hour to go to the pub on the Saturday evening.
3am. I’m standing in a carpark, wearing a fluorescent yellow jacket, holding a camcorder, connected to which is an expensive Sennheiser microphone which Topper acquired when Channel 4 were doing some filming in his house. I am trying to get some engine sounds from Brian’s car for use in the opening sequence. When we get back to the flat and transfer the tape, we will discover that the audio is useless, and we will have to go back out early in the morning to re-record it, and I will have to very quickly slap it into place in the opening sequence soundtrack before we hand the film in. This does not do good things to my mental state.
The filming went much more smoothly this year. We only had the one camera, which was both a blessing and a curse – it meant we couldn’t shoot the same shot from more than one angle, but it did mean that we only ended up with 45 minutes of footage to work through. Brian had cobbled together a steadycam, which worked well, and we had a couple of radio mics which gave much better sound quality than the boom mic we used last year. Plus, I got to feel the lead actress’s arse under the pretence of adjusting her mic transmitter.
4pm. We’re standing in a field, huddled under umbrellas, because the heavens have just opened in spectacular fashion. We are struggling to protect the equipment, but are not keen on getting drenched ourselves; plus, we need to keep the actors dry for continuity reasons. During the filming, I’m trailing the camera with the mic mixing desk, connected to it by an umbilical tangle of cables and trying not to get in anyone’s way whilst still trying to get useful sound. Rebeca’s mic keeps distorting, and every so often I get a burst of static which fries my eardrums for the next five minutes. We won’t use a single second of the audio recorded on location, and I will have to recreate the whole thing in post, but I don’t know that yet.
We had a horror film to make; this meant we got to play with fake blood, record silly sound effects and play with visual effects during the edit. We get some nice shots by putting the camera in a transparent plastic box and squirting fake blood at it; we shoot day-for-night by use of a blue filter and stopping down the camera’s aperture; we make stabbing sounds by recording Brian stabbing a cabbage, and I get Irsan to groan and gurgle into a mic to provide sounds for the death scene. Rebeca gets far too excited whilst we’re shooting the murder scene, and Irsan is noticably concerned about the fact he’s going to be around a knife-wielding maniac both on- and off-screen, but nobody gets hurts or covered in fake blood.
“Keep an eye on that stuff on the stove, it’ll thicken up nicely soon and we can use it for the blood”. Like hell did it thicken up. When we spilled it on the ground in front of the camera, it was virtually invisible. We had to use neat food colouring on the knife, and none of the boxcam shots were usable until we re-recorded them back at the flat with a different blood formulation.
The whole process seemed much less fraught and went much more smoothly than last year. We only shot 45 minutes of footage, and were working with Actual Actors, which made life much easier; we were also far more comfortable with our software and tools this time around, so it wasn’t as much of a learning process. My Edirol UA-5 did absolutely sterling work recording overdubs and foley, working cleanly and without problem all night, and deftly dealing with every sound source we threw at it. We even managed to grab about half an hour of sleep each during the 24 hours, fit in a trip to the pub and finished the film with about half an hour to spare. And I think we produced a much better film than last year’s effort, even though we only had half the amount of time to do it in.
Of course, it was still bloody hard work. Long, tedious, hard work.
But we did it. Again.
Yes. We did it. Again.
And we’ll do it again next year too.
Yes. We probably will.